B.C. grandfather helps sick kids with handcrafted wooden bowls

Click to play video: 'Baba’s BooBoo Bowls for a good cause'
Baba’s BooBoo Bowls for a good cause
A Vancouver senior has turned his hobby into a moneymaker for the BC Children's Hospital Foundation. Neetu Garcha reports – May 12, 2021

Using discarded wood to create one-of-a-kind bowls, an 80-year-old Vancouver man has turned what he calls a small gesture from his garage into a large fundraiser with global interest.

“I feel so happy to do something for somebody,” Nirmal Singh Bhogal said about his effort to raise funds for kids with cancer in B.C.

Bhogal’s labour of love begins at the crack of dawn nearly every day, working well past dusk and taking his core value of selfless service, known as seva in Punjabi, to a new level.

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Using dozens, at times hundreds, of pieces of wood, he meticulously puts together and perfects all kinds of bowls.

The project started as a pastime in place of Bhogal’s usual volunteer shifts with the Canadian Cancer Society and Meals on Wheels, both largely cancelled due to the pandemic.

His bowl-carving project has taken on a life of its own since he decided to sell them by donation.

“I mostly I pick up wood from the forest,” Bhogal said.

With an uptick in demand for his bowls, he’s been accepting donated wood, including cherry and walnut, and covering the costs for supplies and materials to ensure all funds raised go to the oncology department at the BC Children’s Hospital,” he said.

“People give us a good response, there is a lot of interest,” Bhogal said, adding he was surprised by the demand, coming from all over the world.

His grandson, Mehar Bhogal, and daughter-in-law run an Instagram page to display the bowls and accept orders, after people have made a donation.

The family has raised nearly $20,000 in less than six months, quadruple their initial goal.

“The goal started at $5,000, then it went up to $10,000 and now we’re nearing $20,000, so our next goal just has to be more,” Mehar said.

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Mehar, who along with his relatives call Nirmal “Baba,” said the initiative’s name, Baba’s Boo Boo Bowls, is to signify the ‘boo boo’s’ they hope to help heal in children and the nature of the scrap wood they use.

“All the wood kind of has boo boo’s — it’s not perfect wood,” he said.

While Bhogal looked to YouTube to perfect the art of making the bowls themselves, he comes from a long lineage of carpenters.

He learned the craft from his own grandfather in India, where the family ran a carpentry business called Fine Furniture Experts in Punjab.

Before coming to Canada in 1973, he lived in England. He says he always found ways to keep his passions for carving and community involvement alive.

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For years, his work been featured in various B.C. gurdwaras and in the main float at the annual Vaisakhi parade in Surrey.

Now from inside a small Vancouver garage, he’s passing his wood working skills and wisdom on to an entire community, and promising never to be turned off from using his gifts to give back.

“I feel happy to do something for somebody,” he said.

Bhogal also has personal connections to the cause, having known and helped several people who have cancer throughout his life.

“We’ve been so inspired by Nirmal and his family; this initiative stemmed from his desire to help the kids of B.C. in a real, tangible way,” a spokesperson for the B.C. Children’s Hospital Foundation said.

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“The impact can’t be overstated. Supporters like Nirmal are so important … and we can’t express enough gratitude to them.”

The foundation says one in five children with cancer in B.C., don’t survive, but donor support over the years has helped the odds of survival among children increase dramatically.

“The cutting-edge research initiatives, the next generation of childhood cancer experts and the long-term psychosocial and medical programs required to beat these odds depends on donor support,” the foundation said.

You can click here for a link to the foundation’s direct donation page.

All bowls can be ordered here.

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